by Rev. Jack Barr

What are they? And why are we writing about them? We are writing about them because the bible speaks of them in four verses. Three verses in the book of Genesis and one in the Song of Solomon (Canticle of Canticles in the Catholic Bible). It is easy to pass over part of the story of Rachel and Leah without understanding the significance of Rachel's desire to have the mandrakes or why it is spoken of in the Song of Solomon.

" So, Who cares?? It is such a minor thing, I don't need it to understand the bible." I was told by one person. Well you should care. God put this and many other small items into the bible for a reason. Every word in the bible has to do with our salvation, no matter how insignificant it may appear to our minds.

The Mandrake, has to do with false beliefs, superstitions, and witchcraft, which are still connected with the use of the mandrake in today's world. OH, You didn't know? that the mandrake root is still sold all around the world, including this country? And for the same reasons that Rachel wanted the mandrakes from Leah. The mandrakes second name is " Love Apple." If that gives you a clue. More on this later.

For now, let us look at what the bible has to say about it. For those who do not have a bible within reach, here are the verses.

Genesis 30:14 - 16 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes. And she said unto her, is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes. And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.

Song of Solomon 7:13 The mandrakes give a smell, and at out gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.

In the story of Rachel and Leah, we have to go back to how they came to be married to Jacob. Jacob wanted to marry Rachel but was tricked into marrying Leah first. So we see that Jacob loved Rachel and wanted to be with her, and had no desire to spend time with Leah, and so Jacob spent most of his time with Rachel, ignoring Leah. This make for hard feelings between these two sisters.

The second point here is that Rachel was unable to have children herself but Leah was a baby making machine. These two items caused jealousy on the part of each woman. Leah was jealous of Rachel because she had Jacob, and Rachel was jealous of Leah because Leah had children and Rachel couldn't.

This brings us back to the mandrakes. The mandrake plant was, and still is, believed to be an Aphrodisiac, ( induces or causes one to desire sex) when properly prepared as a " love potion ".)

 The Mandrake 

The Mandrake Plant - note the shape of the root which resembles the waist and thighs of man or woman.

The root somewhat resembles the human form in that its thick root is often forked, suggesting human legs, and frequently has additional side roots, appearing to be arms. This has led to many superstitions to be associated with the mandrake. (see the articles below)

The fruit of the mandrake, according to ancient versions, is a species of melon, of a most agreeable odor. It is, when ripe, of the size and color of a small apple, exceedingly ruddy, and although bland tasting and slightly poisonous, are much desired as an edible fruit and has been called " Love Apples ". The belief is that the fruit, like the root, had magic properties that would cause fertility and sexual drive and desire.

From the time of the year given in Genesis 30:14 -- during the wheat harvest -- which is about May in Israel, the same time that the mandrakes ripened it's fruit, we believe that Leah's son brought home the fruit and not the roots.

It was the belief that the mandrakes would cause, through magical properties, the fertility and conception of a child for Rachel, that caused Rachel to ask for the mandrakes. Leah tells Rachel that since she stole Leah's husband, Jacob, that she couldn't have the magical fruit that would cause Rachel to have the child that Rachel wanted so badly.

Rachel then offers to pay a price for them that she knows Leah wants, for she believes that if she has Jacob eat of them that she will become pregnant. Leah then agrees to sell her the mandrakes and accepts the price offered, of Leah having one night of love making with Jacob.

So the bible shows us here the foolishness of believing in and relying on superstitions and magic. Rachel did not become pregnant, and having the fruit of the mandrake did not help the woman in Song of Solomon. One other thing, jealousy will cause you to do strange things.

The mandrake root is still sold in America as of this writing, from several companies. From the "Wild Earth Catalog", in both chopped and powered form. It is listed in many magical formulas and witchcraft potions.

Both the root and fruit has a substance which produces Hallucinations, including altered perception of time and space and of the color, detail, and size of objects; also the experience of imaginary conversations, music odors, tastes, and other sensations.

In small doses, it is also deadly and can easily kill a man. One of the following articles shows the power of it. A very small dose will knock a man out for days.

The following information taken from the book "Legal Highs" a concise encyclopedia of legal herbs and chemicals with psychoactive properties, by Adam Gottlieb, (An Alchemist).

MANDRAKE -- of the Family Solanaceae (Potato family).
Material: Various parts especially parsnip-shaped root of perennial plant 
found in fields and stony places of southern Europe.
Usage: Brew made from boiling crushed root.
 Hallucinations followed by deathlike trance and sleep.
Contraindictions: Same as thornapple. Said to cause insanity.
Not recommended.

And from an encyclopedia:

This plant is real enough, but some of the legends surrounding it are grade A fantasy. It could not, as said, reveal buried treasure, nor confer invisibility upon it's owner; even less was it ever used by female elephants to lure reluctant males of the species into courtship. , but despite being so cited in the Bible, the only effect it ever had was to extract money from otherwise sensible European ladies who hoped to have children. What was true, and what outweighed all the nonsense, was the plant's ability to act as a sedative, a potent soporific, and a powerful anaesthetic.

The root of mandrake bore some resemblance to a human torso, and swindlers and sharpers of every degree were quick to take advantage of the fact. They placed molds about the roots, or carved them into human form, sometimes adding locks of hair, making them very like figures of men and women. The finished product was then sold to some simpleton for good, hard cash after leading the dupe to expect all manner of miracles from its possession. Nobody ever asked why the seller was willing to part with something supposed to guarantee wealth and good fortune to its owner, along with a supply of rightful heirs. In slack seasons when vegetables weren't selling well, the mandrake manikins provided a reliable cash crop.

There was always a sinister aura attached to this plant fostered no doubt by those who could profit from it, but also abetted by its mysterious and often evil actions. Those, of course resulted from its abundant content of alkaloids, which could render a 250- pound man totally unconscious for three days.

After a dose of three to five drams, given in wine, painful amputations, or other procedures, could be performed without distress to the patient. Yet that fact was somehow ignored after medieval times and it took several centuries to remind people that the plant could relieve suffering. No longer the property of witchcraft and sorcery, the mandrake now serves humanity as a benefactor, its potential for harm turned to good effect as a painkiller.

and another:

It was supposed to grow under the feet of a hanged man and could only be pulled from the ground after performing the necessary rituals. It was advisable to put wax in the ears before one attempted to do this: the mandrake would scream when pulled free and this could cause deafness.

The mandrake root was used for invulnerability, for discovering treasures, and as a charm for pregnancy. When properly prepared it could also be used as an aphrodisiac.

May God Guide you in Understanding His Word, Amen.

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